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Karen’s Fail- Proof 5-Step Guide To Choosing Your Family Photo Wardrobe (Without Wanting To Pull Your Hair Out)

So, if you are anything like me, you booked your family photo session and you are super excited, until you start trying to decide what the heck everyone is going to WEAR. And then this stuff happens….

…You already had to bribe your reluctant husband (maybe with his favorite meal and a case of beer?) to take the dang pictures, and but he drew the line at wearing that faire isle sweater you saw on

…You saw the most ADORABLE hat for your toddler….but he will NOT keep it on his head.

…You found the cutest tutu skirt for your daughter…until she cried about it being itchy when you put it on…and you remembered the photo session was outside with a high of 50 in November.

Wardrobe selection seems fun at first, perusing pinterest for ideas, looking at your favorite stores (mine happen to be Old Navy and OshKosh) to find adorable (yet pointless) dress clothes you know your kids will only wear this once because you would be too afraid to let them get these perfect outfits dirty lol.Yep, it is all fun and games until you have a week until the session and you have 2 outfits for your kid, three things to return that your husband vetoed, and of course NOTHING for yourself.

You guys. I am here to help. Enter KAREN’S FAIL-PROOF 5 STEP GUIDE TO CHOOSING YOUR FAMILY PHOTO WARDROBE WITHOUT WANTING TO PULL YOUR HAIR OUT (with the official hashtag: #bestdressedfamilyonachristmascard2014)

Yes this is only 5 steps. You got this. But,before you start, let’s narrow the focus.


Weather- Don’t dress inappropriately for the weather- it will be miserable- your smiles will look forced from the teeth chattering, and your kids will be uncooperative. If its going to be cold, look for statement coats in bright colors, or just layer up with hats, scarves, mittens and sweaters!

Season– It is always good to think about what colors look best for the season. IE- pastels like mint green, as well as light and bright colors like coral are great in summer, whereas deeper tones work great in colder temps.

Comfort– Think about what your husband, kids, and yourself will feel comfortable in. This means, think about both what makes you feel “yourself” and enjoy wearing, and also, what will be comfortable physically- avoiding itchy sweaters, super tight pants, super high heels, or hats and hair bows that won’t stay on. etc.

Limitations of the location– If you have to traipse through a field to get to the location, it is best not to dress your 2 year old in tights that could run, or wear stilettos that will sink into the mud.

Style of location– The location and the color palette or print you choose should have the same vibe- for instance- if shooting in a wheat field, you might choose something earth toned or bohemian. But if you are in the city you might choose something more structured, with bolder or cooler colors. I almost always suggest bold colors when shooting outside.

BE YOU– Let individual personalities shine through. This is YOUR family. Not the family on the cover of Southern Living.

OK now that you have a few general parameters in your head, lets get started. I swear this will be as painless as possible hehe.

This step is the most important and the easiest: look on pinterest, your favorite online store, or some of the color palette sites I provided below and choose or create a palette that you think would compliment everyone in your family. Think about season, location, as well as hair and skin tones.

When I say color palette, what I mean is 3-4 colors. What I don’t mean: everyone wearing khakis and white shirts. Please, please step away from the time machine that takes you to 1995…

Here are some fall and winter themed color palettes I created, and below them, some resources to create or find your own:

This first one is the inspiration for my own family photos this fall! I actually started with buffalo plaid (black and red) because I love everything plaid, added to that hunter green khaki, tan khaki, and denim.

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The Perfect Palette

Design Seeds 

You can also choose a print you like (for instance, my all time favorite: leopard print haha!). If no color palette speaks to you, or if you are baffled by this or overwhelmed, already…no worries: just skip to step 2 and start there!


You know how in the event of a plane crash they say to put your own mask on first…well, a similar principle applies here…sort of lol. You know as well as I do that if momma is not happy no one is, so choose YOUR outfit first.

Ladies, this is where it can all go wrong. Please, please follow this step. I know this goes against our mommy tendencies to focus on our kids. And I know it seems easier to start with the kids section because it is so fun to find them 10 different options. But if you do that, then you get stuck building your outfit around theirs and you and I both know us ladies are the pickiest ones in the family and then you will end up not wanting to BE in your own family photos because everyone else has the perfect outfit and you hate yours. SO…

Start by going to your favorite store. I honestly like sticking to stores that carry clothes for the whole family because sometimes things magically coordinate already, but anywhere is fine!

Start by choosing a fit and color that is flattering! DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT feel that you have to stick to solids. In fact, prints and patterns, stripes and plaids- all good options!!

If you are indecisive like me, there is no harm in picking a solid option and a print option that match your palette, or picking a solid top and two coordinating print scarves. But please- if someone in your family ends up in a solid color, let it be your husband because chances are he already owns a solid shirt and won’t mind wearing it!


Choose your accessories! Accessories should be bold- statement necklaces, bold complimentary colors, scarves, boots, all great options! These accessories are what can really make your outfit pop. Don’t be afraid to add unexpected color or texture here.


Choose your kids clothes. Work on your kids next because chances are the clothes they will wear will have more “character” than your significant other. It is easy to find a simple outfit for a second adult that will compliment the other outfits, so kids are up next.

Here is where I hope I don’t blow your mind, OCD friends: mixing patterns and prints LOOKS GOOD. Yep, you read that right. However, let me provide my rules of thumb. Let’s not get crazy here, there are RULES people.

  1. Don’t put anyone in exactly the same solid color shirt. It is boring. It is old fashioned. Don’t put everyone in the exact same print, either. Same reason. Moving on!
  1. Find something in the color palette for each family member. Whatever you are wearing, your goal is to find something in the same palette for your kids. It is good to vary the main color in everyone’s outfit when possible. For instance if your palette is blue, red and yellow, one of you should be wearing something predominately blue with pops of the other colors, someone should be wearing a print or pattern that is mostly red, etc.
  1. You CAN mix prints but mixed prints look best if they are different sizes and patterns. Now it gets a little more complicated, but bear with me: for each child, they can wear a solid or print, but the print and size of the print must be DIFFERENT.

Some examples: For example, if your shirt is a large floral, your kids can wear stripes, but not another floral. If you are wearing a small plaid, your kids can wear large polka dots but NOT the same plaid or another plaid…etc, etc. When in doubt, put the prints up next to each other: are they similar at ALL? If so, put one back. Are they the exact same size print? If so, probably best to keep looking.

Another method for those of you who cant wrap your head around mixing prints, is to stick with mostly solid colors and use bold accessories like scarves, cardigans, hats, and jewelry to add that element of visual interest and tie the palette together.


If you have more than one child, repeat step 3 for each.

NOTE: I can help you pick the outfits but I can’t help you make your kids wear what you pick out. Chances are your two year old girl has her Elsa costume in mind, and your 10 year old boy will need to be pried away from his neon green underarmor. Good luck…the only thing that might help you with that part is idle threats about video game usage or telling them that they can get ice cream afterward… lol.

STEP 4: DON’T LET YOUR HUSBAND DRESS HIMSELF (insert evil laugh here.)

I swear if you find something your hubby feels comfortable in, this step will be the easiest: your husband, boyfriend or girlfriend’s outfit will most likely be the simplest of all and often you can find something they already own to incorporate. Basically, you are just repeating step 3 again, but without being as worried about accessorizing etc. Mostly just concern yourself with making your significant other feel comfortable. If what you picked looks like a magazine cover but doesn’t look at all like your hubby, it is best to skip it. Make everyone feel comfortable and also, let your family be your family! Don’t work too hard at this. It should be fun not stressful! 🙂

Two last tips….


Spit up happens. Puddles happen. Blue lollipops happen. Chocolate milk in the car before the photoshoot given to your kid by your husband (“WHAT ARE YOU- CRAZY?!?!”) happens. Trust me. Be prepared with backup.….and a shout pen….and wipes….

See you in a few weeks, friends! 🙂

And so, I will leave you to it. Happy Shopping. Here is some inspiration from a few awesome clients who got it so right:




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